Mario Sifuentez and Denise Loya
Bracero Oral History
Biographical Synopsis of Interviewee
Mateo Murillo Lamas was born on September 21, 1916, in Valparaíso, Zacatecas, México; when he was roughly twenty years old, he moved to México, Distrito Federal; in 1942, while there, he was taken at gunpoint by Mexican officials and transported by train the United States to enlist in the bracero program; he continued voluntarily working as a bracero through the mid-fifties, primarily in the cotton and lettuce fields of Arizona, California, and Colorado; in 1989, he became a U.S. citizen.
Summary of Interview
Mr. Murillo vividly recalls being in México, Distrito Federal, in 1942, when he was taken at gunpoint by Mexican officials and loaded into a train; there were roughly one thousand men aboard, and by the time they reached California, there were only two hundred men, at most, because so many had jumped off the train; as he was about to be transported to his worksite, American officials asked if he would be willing to take arms and help the United States should the need arise; he agreed and signed a paper that put him on a reserve list, but he was never called to action; in spite of his initial recruitment, he continued voluntarily working as a bracero through the midfifties, primarily in the cotton and lettuce fields of Arizona, California, and Colorado; he goes on to chronicle the various worksites, living and working conditions, duties, daily routines, treatment, payments, contract renewals, and recreational activities; in addition, he mentions receiving a portion of his salary in the form of stamps that he could use to purchase clothing or shoes according to a rationing schedule; he also comments that in the years following the war braceros were generally not treated as well, because their impending necessity was no longer at issue; moreover, he explains how he was ultimately able to use his previous work history to become a U.S. citizen in 1989; he also asserts that braceros not only supported the economy of both countries, but of the war as well.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
Length of Transcript
Interview with Mateo Murillo Lamas by Mario Sifuentez and Denise Loya, 2006, "Interview no. 1232," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.